Research & Collections Staff | La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Research & Collections Staff


Dr. Emily LindseyAssistant Curator & Excavation Site Director

My research integrates information from past and modern ecosystems to understand how Ice Age animals and environments functioned, how climate conditions and human actions intersect to drive extinctions, and to predict future ecological responses in the face of modern global change.  No other paleontological site in the world has as great a potential to answer these questions as the La Brea Tar Pits.  I studied Biology at Brown University (undergraduate) and the University of California – Berkeley (Ph.D.), and did postdoctoral research at U.C. Berkeley and the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural in Uruguay.  I have conducted fieldwork in the United States, Antarctica, Chile, Guyana, and Ecuador, where my ongoing research program focuses on investigating the rich asphaltic fossil localities of the Santa Elena Peninsula and comparing them with our own tar pits here in California.

Dr. Kenneth CampbellCurator Emeritus

I have been a Curator at the Natural History Museum since 1977. My first duties were as Curator of the large collection of fossil birds from the Rancho La Brea tar pits at the newly opened George C. Page Museum, then as Curator of all fossil birds in the collections of the Natural History Museum. I have served as Curator of Birds, responsible for all collections of birds, both fossil and recent, since 1997. My current research on the fossil birds of Rancho La Brea includes two major projects. One is the detailed description of the bones of teratorns and the identification of distinguishing characteristics of the two genera and species that occur in the tar pit collections. The second is a complete reevaluation of the nine species of fossil owls in the collections, which is undertaken in collaboration with Dr. Zbigniew Bochenski of Poland. The study of the owls will result in the description of new genera and species. A recently completed study was a revision and re-description of the extinct California Turkey, Meleagris californica, coauthored with Dr. Bochenski. Other families of birds are also being prepared for detailed revisionary studies.

Dr. John HarrisCurator Emeritus

Dr. Harris studied geology at the Universities of Leicester, Texas, and Bristol before becoming Director of Paleontology at the National Museums of Kenya in 1971. In 1980 he joined the staff at the Natural History Museum as Chief Curator of the Division of Earth Sciences.

Aisling FarrellCollections Manager

I studied zoology at University College Cork in Ireland and later graduated from Imperial College London where my research focused on taxonomy and systematics using the collections at the Natural History Museum. My paleontology career has taken me on a journey of museums and fieldwork all over the world including; China, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad, Uruguay and the Yukon, as well as around the United States. I am dedicated to creating accessible collections for research and education, as well as protecting irreplaceable natural history specimens for future generations.

Gary TakeuchiCollections Manager

I started as a high school volunteer at Rancho La Brea in 1983 and went on to become the Senior Excavator of Pit 91 from 1999-2000. Until 2009, I was a Curatorial Assistant for the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and was also part of the Age of Mammals exhibition team. Over the years my career has taken me to do field work at Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert, California, Argentina, Inner Mongolia, China and Tibet. My research has mainly focused on fossil fish, but my interests include biostratigraphy, taphonomy, and microfossils.

Stephany PotzeFossil Lab Manager

Growing up in South Africa not far from the "Cradle of Humankind", I have always been passionate about the past and what fossils can reveal about these lost worlds. My formal paleontological background was in managing the fossil preparation laboratory and hominin collection at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, Pretoria, since 2001. During that time, I was permit holder for two Plio-Pleistocene sites, Bolt's Farm and Haasgat, with annual excavations revealing a wealth of exciting fossils including bovids, pigs, primates and sabertooth cats. My interest in ancient life has also taken me on other types of excavations from archaeological sites in the Kruger National Park to Jurassic sites containing early dinosaurs in the Free State. I have always been fascinated by the impressive collection of Ice Age mammals at the La Brea Tar Pits, and in 2016, my desire to master the techniques associated with working on asphaltic fossil material led me half-way across the world to work at this amazing institution. Academically, I have completed a double major in Archaeology and Anthropology from the University of South Africa, with research collaborations predominantly focused on Plio-Pleistocene hominin and faunal fossils, including work on fossil preparation techniques.

Carrie HowardLead Preparator

My desire to do fieldwork originally brought me to volunteer at Rancho La Brea. Now I am the lead excavator at Project 23 where I oversee daily activities on site and co-ordinate with the Collections Manager. My bachelor's degree is in Earth Sciences and Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz. I love geology and am interested in studying the unique asphaltic sediments of RLB. Being an avid photographer, I enjoy documenting our work and am also excited about producing an annotated photographic notebook of RLB specimens for the field.

Laura TewksburyPreparator

My educational background is in both Biology and American Sign Language Interpreting. After volunteering at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum for a few years in both the Fossil Lab and in Pit 91, I was thrilled to be chosen as a Preparator with the new Project 23 Excavation. After all, being the first person ever to see a particular fossil of an animal that died tens of thousands of years ago is a joy that never gets old, and helping to tell their story is even better! I love sharing my enthusiasm for science with museum guests of all ages.

Karin RicePreparator

I'm a geologist by training with industry experience in environmental and engineering geology, and paleontological resource mitigation. I'm also a graduate student working on fault mapping in central Mongolia. I’ve always been drawn to natural history and fossils and have been lucky to have worked in paleontology since 2005: as a paleontological monitor on construction sites; as a fossil preparator in the Dino Lab at the Natural History Museum; and currently as an excavator for Project 23. Working on Project 23 is all about daily discovery.

Sean CampbellPreparator

I graduated from San Diego State University with a major in Anthropology with an emphasis in human osteology and a minor in geology.  After graduating from SDSU, I began volunteering at Rancho La Brea which combines my passion for osteology and geology.  I also interned at the Milwaukee Public Museum under the Anthropology department and volunteered with an Archaeology program under the Forest Service in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.  As a Preparator, I have the extreme privilege of uncovering fossils and studying the skeletal structures of organisms from the distant past.  Working here broadens my horizons every day with new insights into paleontology, paleoecology and many other different fields of natural science.   I also love sharing everything I learn here with visitors from all over the world.

Dr. Alexis MychajliwPostdoctoral Fellow

Genomes, bones, and sediments hold clues to how species responded to extinction pressures in the past. I apply a diverse methodological toolkit to understand how faunal communities have changed over the past 20,000 years into today, and place these results in a modern conservation context. I have a BS in Biology and Natural Resources from Cornell University and just received my PhD in Biology from Stanford University, working closely with the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural of the Dominican Republic. At La Brea, I use stable isotopes of Holocene fauna to develop a baseline for understanding the rapidly changing biodiversity of Los Angeles. I am excited to compare the Holocene of California with my ongoing research of Caribbean mammal extinctions - especially all things insectivore!

Dr. Libby EllwoodPostdoctoral Fellow

My ecological research occurs at the intersection of climate change, conservation, and citizen science. I work to understand past systems while conducting contemporary research to see how these systems have changed and how they may continue to change in the future. This research depends on historical or ancient information and citizen scientists are playing an increasing role in making such data available. Recently, I completed a postdoctoral position with iDigBio at Florida State University where I worked to engage the public in digitizing specimens and data contained in natural history collections. In my current Research Fellow position at La Brea Tar Pits & Museum I am part of the "A mouse's eye view of Rancho La Brea" project to reconstruct paleo food webs. Specifically, I'm developing educational resources to involve students in sorting microfossils that will inform us of the small mammals and plants that comprised ecosystems here 50-30,000 years ago.

Dr. Mairin BalisiPostdoctoral Fellow

I have worked with fossils from La Brea Tar Pits for over a decade: first, as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, studying locomotion; next, as a Master's student at the University of Michigan, testing resource partitioning among large Pleistocene carnivores; then, as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles, quantifying injuries sustained by the sabertooth cat and dire wolf; and, most recently, as manager of the Tar Pits Field School. Now, I am funded by the National Science Foundation and co-sponsored by UC Merced to conduct postdoctoral research on small- to medium-sized carnivores (mesocarnivores). La Brea Tar Pits are famous for their large carnivores, but mesocarnivores lived alongside the megafauna, too! The carnivorous megafauna had become extinct by the end of the last Ice Age, but mesocarnivores (like coyotes and bobcats) remain with us to this day. I am investigating how the dual disturbances of megafaunal extinction and climate transition shaped the mesocarnivore community over the past 40,000 years--and, by extension, our Los Angeles community today.

Christine MazzelloAssistant Collections Manager

After receiving my BA in Anthropology from California State University, Long Beach, I began volunteering in the Fossil Lab, cleaning and preparing Project 23 fossils, in 2014. Along with volunteering for both Rancho La Brea and NHM libraries and archives, I volunteered with Research and Collections here at RLB for 2 years, which solidified my desire to acquire the skills necessary to preserve the story each specimen has to tell. My interests lie in proper paleontological cataloging techniques, preservation and conservation of fossil specimens through best museum and curatorial practices, to ensure long-term research accessibility. As a current graduate student in the Museum Studies program through Johns Hopkins University, I am expanding my knowledge of and experience in collections management. Earning the position as Assistant Collections Manager for the Food Webs project has allowed me the privilege of curating the first fossil specimen (a dire wolf rib from Project 23) I catalogued, 3 years ago, which has been quite a fulfilling experience.